By: Drew Flanagan

I have learned a lot going through the entire open design process.

I would say my number one takeaway is that, when designing, it is important to solve with the user-center problem in mind, not with the solution that you, the designer would like to implement. This is important because in order to produce a design that is effective, it is key that it aligns with the specific needs of the user. In the innovation space, it is all too common for designers to build with aesthetics or technology in mind, rather than the essential user needs.

One way I learned to be user-centered was to co-create. Collaborating with stakeholders is not simply a “step” or a “box to check” – it is a continued process. As my team designed, we constantly reached out to stakeholders for feedback and input. While this can sometimes be exhausting, it kept us grounded in designing a solution that specifically fits the community’s needs.

One of my most memorable challenges was when a stakeholder thought our team was not taking the most effective approach to solve our problem of focus. While many other stakeholders had helped us craft a particular way of solving, this stakeholder disagreed. It was a defining moment for our group because we had to decide the extent by which we embrace all feedback versus weighing the priorities of other stakeholders. We decided to only adapt some of the feedback from that stakeholder, recognizing that our solution could not solve all needs – we would have to be more specific in deciding who we exactly we were solving for.

From Open Design+, a main learning for me was to have an open mind. Listening and iterating are equally, if not more important, than reaching an end goal in an expedient or rushed manner. In other words, feedback makes for a more productive process and a better solution.